Worth Watching: Danielle Brooks as ‘Mahalia,’ Helena Bonham Carter’s ‘Grandparents’ War,’ ‘Atlantic Crossing,’ ‘Walking Dead’ Finale
To kick off Easter weekend, Lifetime celebrates gospel legend Mahalia Jackson—and ABC presents its annual screening of The Ten Commandments. World War II memories loom large in My Grandparents’ War and the new Masterpiece miniseries Atlantic Crossing. To close out its 10th season, The Walking Dead digs into the history of its most notorious villain, Negan. A selective critical checklist of notable weekend TV:
Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) earned a Tony nomination for the Broadway revival of The Color Purple alongside Genius: Aretha’s Cynthia Erivo. Now it’s her turn to take center stage as a musical legend, raising the roof as gospel powerhouse Mahalia Jackson in an inspiring biopic. Mahalia follows her journey from Louisiana to Carnegie Hall and the 1963 March on Washington.
My Grandparents’ War
The emotional appeal of Finding Your Roots is enhanced with vivid recollections of World War II in a terrific four-part series where celebrated British actors learn how their ancestors helped changed history during wartime. First up: The Crown’s Helena Bonham Carter, whose lineage includes paternal grandmother and liberal firebrand Lady Violet Bonham Carter, daughter of a former prime minister. Reading letters and studying photos of the time, Helena is moved to learn how Lady Violet volunteered as an air-raid warden during the Blitz and advocated for refugees. Her maternal grandfather, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, was a Spanish diplomat based in Paris, defying orders while securing visas for Jewish citizens. When Helena meets a woman whose family was saved by his efforts, history comes alive. Future subjects include Oscar winner Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas and current nominee Carey Mulligan.
Masterpiece imports an evocative and sentimental eight-part drama from Norway (with subtitles) that depicts the harrowing flight of Crown Princess Martha (the elegant Sofia Helin) and her children from the 1940 Nazi invasion of Norway. She takes temporary shelter in the White House of FDR (a charming Kyle MacLachlan), who takes a shine to her, while she lobbies for his support at a time when the U.S. was still promoting a front of neutrality in the conflict.
The Walking Dead
Many like Maggie (Lauren Cohan) may never be able to forgive Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) for his heinous acts and strutting attitude while leading the Saviors, but the 10th-season finale goes a long way towards humanizing this trying-to-reform fiend. In a backstory reaching 12 years into the past, we see him as a caring, loving, flawed but far from unredeemable partner to his beloved Lucille (Morgan’s wife, Hilarie Burton), whose memory would live on in the most twisted fashion as the name of his fearsome barbed-wire-encrusted bat. The chemistry between the Morgans is fierce, as Negan risks everything to secure medicine for his cancer-stricken mate in the early wild-west days of the zombie apocalypse. Negan’s reckoning with his past sets up a compelling dynamic for the extended 11th and final season, currently in production.
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Like most awards shows conducted under pandemic conditions, this year’s SAG Awards will look and feel different. For one thing, it’s short: just an hour. And while individual and ensemble acting awards will be presented in 13 categories, the spine of the broadcast will be “I Am an Actor” stories weaved throughout, with actors telling their stories in documentary-like interviews. The most heated TV contest may be between the comedy ensembles of Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso.
Inside Weekend TV:
- The Ten Commandments (Saturday, 7/6c, ABC): As inevitable as the coming of spring, Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar-winning 1956 Biblical epic gets its annual Easter weekend network showcase. Charlton Heston stars as Moses.
- Pit Bulls and Parolees (Saturday, 8/7c, Discovery and streaming on Discovery+): The hit animal-rescue series returns, with Tia Torres and the rest of the Villalobos Rescue Center team giving unfairly demonized pit bulls a new chance at life with eager human owners. The premiere finds the crew on the hunt for a runaway dog, while Tia’s daughter Mariah enlists parolees to help design fundraising apparel.
- Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c, 8:30/PT, NBC): Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, so fiery in Judas and the Black Messiah, brings his charisma to the Studio 8H stage as a first-time guest host. St. Vincent is back for her second round as a musical guest. Followed on many NBC affiliates by the funky new interview show Celebrity Sleepover, hosted by reality star Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio (1st Look, The Challenge) from his own living room. His first guest is Tiffani Thiessen.
- Malika the Lion Queen (Sunday, 8/7c, Fox): The network benches its animated lineup for a wildlife special narrated by 9-1-1’s Angela Bassett. Set in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, this is the story of a pride of lions led by queen lioness Malika.
- NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans (Sunday, 9/8c, CBS): Gerald McRaney returns to the LA spinoff as retired Admiral Kilbride as the saga of Anna (Bar Paly) continues. She’s being held captive by a group with ties to her past and from whom Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and the team must rescue her before she’s sent back to Russia. On the soon-to-be-retired New Orleans, Pride’s (Scott Bakula) bar is firebombed, leading to a reunion with his nemesis, Sasha Broussard (Callie Thorne).
- Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (Sunday, 9/8c, NBC): What crazy tune will everyone sing to celebrate Zoey’s (Jane Levy) 30th birthday? Her own wish: to sort out her complicated feelings for all the men in her life.
- Children That Pay (Sunday, 10/9c, MSNBC): Kate Snow leads a report that’s part of a multi-year NBC News investigation into Sequel Youth and Family Services, an organization that has been accused of neglect and abuse of its vulnerable young clients.
- Gangs of London (Sunday, 10/9c, AMC): Previously available for streaming on AMC+, this gripping British crime thriller dramatizes the battle for power after London gang boss Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) is murdered and his hot-headed son Sean (Joe Cole) is hellbent for vengeance.